First Sunday in Lent – Invocabit
“Trial of the Second Adam”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Matthew 4.1-11
01 March 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Life in this sin-corrupted world is an arduous journey. There are temptations along the way from the old evil foe, who means deadly woe. Temptation began with Adam and Eve, have afflicted all their children, and no surprise, continued to be brought upon the second Adam, the promised seed of Eve whose heel would be bruised by the serpent.
Jesus is afflicted by the same accuser and slanderer who afflicted our first parents in the Garden of Eden in the form of a serpent. Where the confrontation with the first Adam occurred in God’s holy paradise, this confrontation with the second Adam occurs in the corrupted opposite: the paradise now turned into a desert, and specifically, the wilderness on the other side of the Jordan, out of the Promised Land.
The Lord of the lie,
In Eden decomposed,
Before the Man of dust divine
Three loaded questions posed. (Chad Bird, “The Lord of the Lie”, from The Infant Priest, p.36)
Jesus undergoes forty days and forty nights’ fast. Hearing that number reminds us that God has already judged the earth once in the deluge, begun by forty days and forty nights of rain. And the disobedient Isrealites who rebelled against God and Moses many years later were kept out of the Promised Land for forty years. Now our Lord is there in that place of exile, taking upon Himself a fast, every moment of which brings to mind all the failings of God’s people, for which Jesus was willingly humilitated, and was willingly obedient, where Adam, Israel, you, and I, and every human ever born, were not humble and not at all obedient.
The Lord endured this judgment and trial, in our place, and for our good. Where Adam on a full stomach was weak and unable to resist temptation and failed so terribly, where the wickedness of all men was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of every person’s heart has only been evil continually: there is Jesus, the new Adam and new Israel, humiliated, standing in our human weakness, alone, hungry, but was strong to save, resisted, denied the means of the evil one of feeding Himself bread and of testing His Father and the angels and of taking for Himself the world’s vain glories, speaking a firm “no” to Satan’s wickedness, able and willing and indeed rejecting the continually evil intentions, thoughts, and desires that come from your heart, repelling the flaming darts of Satan’s false preaching with the truth of the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, His own Word.
The second Adam’s victory in the wilderness is your victory. You receive Jesus’ victory by putting your faith in Him as Savior and Lord, trusting in the victory of Him who stood for you in this life, in your flesh, and fought and defeated the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh to the very death and destroyed their true power over you. How comforting this ought to be to you faithful Christians, even as you know you go out into this world with severe temptations and trials that will and do indeed come upon you, each and every day. Take comfort, dear Christians, in your temptations and trials.
These should by no means be a surprise to us in our Christian life. Take comfort, as you hear today of the Son of God Himself under the claws of the devil and assailed with temptations. It is precisely the most pious and dearest children of God who are afflicted. Temptation is proof that you are among the dear children of God. Baptized into Christ, you have a target on your back, you were made an enemy of Satan. God’s beloved Son went straight from His baptism in the Jordan into His temptation at the hands of Satan. Where He goes, you go after Him, through the valley of the shadow of death, in the presence of your enemies.
And there is this strange paradox that God has a hand in our trials and temptations. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, in order to be tempted, by the devil.” So says the inspired Evangelist. When you see yourself surrounded by sheer temptation, sheer evil, then it is precisely at that place where God is with you, knows what you are encountering, sees your sorrow, and remembers His own.
More than that, everything happens according to God’s will, and according to His sacred counsel He imposes temptation over you, His child, in order to set His target once more on the tempter, on the slanderer and false accuser of His children, to show His ongoing victory over Satan through the work of the Gospel in your heart and soul and mind.
So temptation and trial and suffering, albeit never a comfortable thing for you, serves for your own good. Even though it burdens and distresses you in your body and conflicts your conscience, bringing anxious hours, our loving Father wills to use the sufferings of this present life to teach and discipline you in the faith, bringing lasting benefits to your soul. My power, Jesus says, is made perfect in weakness. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, says the Apostle Paul.
We pray that God would guard and keep us… that we may finally overcome our enemies and win the victory. So God calls you to take up the sword of the Spirit, strike the enemy with the powerful Word of God. As our Lord spoke, “It stands written,” and struck Satan down with His all-powerful Word, so you, in your trials and temptations lay hold of the promises of God in Holy Scripture and take refuge in Christ and His victory over sin, death, and Satan for you.
This means that every day, morning, noon, and night, we flee for refuge to our Baptism into the victorious death and resurrection of Christ, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins, seeking to hear the precious Absolution in full faith and trust. We would do well in this congregation to make more use of private confession and absolution, the practice of our Baptism.
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray in your trials. God desires that we pray fervently and devoutly for His comfort and aid, to seek His face only, to call upon the counsel of His Word, the only One who can deliver from devil and hell. We learn to pray by participating in the prayer life of the Church both at home and here when offered. We know the counsel of God by seeking to study it and meditate upon it more each day.
Become more hostile to sin, and learn from Christ to withdraw more and more decidedly from the wickedness of this corrupted world and its fleeting vanities. Man does not live by bread alone. Let the devil show the riches and glories of this world and its pseudo kingdoms to you, goods, fame, child and wife – let these all be gone if they would be your idol to bow down to, if they would cause you to sin – they yet have nothing won. Recognize the false hopes and dangerous snares the devil and this world attempts to fool you with – and again, pointing to the true Father and His Baptism that claims you – tell them to “be gone” – I’m baptized into Christ, Satan, I belong to Jesus, and I do not need your falsehood. I have all that I need in the victory won for me by the Lord Jesus Christ, the wonderful second Adam who came to be my Savior and Lord.
Suffering and cross-bearing and heartaches and grief and shame and even despair are only to be endured for a time, for a short season. Their power, and the enemies behind them, have been defeated, and it will all be brought to a good end, even as this season of Lent will work its way through the darkness of Good Friday into the bright light and joy of the Paschal Feast on Easter Sunday. Because there the Lord finished off the trial over sin, silenced the old accuser and slanderer once and for all, and garnered the Father’s ringing verdict for you: “not guilty – holy – worthy of eternal life – paid for with my Son’s holy, precious blood.”
So do not cease to struggle against sin and all that plagues you, do not let your courage fail, do not give one inch to the devil, he’s judged, the deed is done, one little Word has caused His downfall – It is finished, and it stands written, and nothing can ever take that victory away from you, not life, not death, not height, not depth, not angel, not demon, not anything else in all creation.
Take comfort and refreshment and find rest for your body and soul, today, in the unspeakable comfort and joy of the crucified and resurrected Son of God, who has forgiven you in your own hearing, who now wills to share His forgiveness and His union with you now at this altar and rail in His own true Body and Blood given under bread and wine.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +